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Published on June 20, 2024
Sonoma County Faces 11% Rise in Homelessness, COVID-Era Aid Ends, Veteran Homelessness SurgesSource: Google Street View

The latest figures from the Point-in-Time count in Sonoma County indicate a rise in homelessness. According to the County of Sonoma, this year's early numbers show an 11 percent increase in the homeless population, totaling 2,522 individuals, a distinct rise from the 2,266 counted in 2023.

Key factors contributing to this uptick include the termination of COVID-era assistance, ongoing issues with affordable housing, and the formal ending of many temporary housing programs. The data revealed a striking 47 percent jump in homeless veterans, now totaling 162 compared to 110 the previous year. Supervisor David Rabbitt insists that this demographic needs ongoing support, as emergency shelters and initiatives that once bolstered these numbers have dissipated. "We need to continue to invest in proven strategies to decrease our unhoused population and ease the burden on our communities", Rabbitt said, as per the County of Sonoma, emphasizing the ongoing need for investment.

In what might be a silver lining, the report also notes a decrease in family homelessness and a significant 50 percent reduction in homelessness among youth. Despite the promising statistic, Michael Gause, the Homelessness Program Manager, voiced concern noting to the County of Sonoma, "The 50 percent reduction in homelessness among youth looks really good, but we have to keep in mind that the Count took place before the abrupt closure in February of Social Advocates for Youth," leaving room for doubt about the enduring nature of this improvement.

While the 2024 count observed more details, including those living "unsheltered" in locations unfit for human habitation, showing an increase from 1,291 to 1,577, this year's methodology benefited from the inclusion of Regional "By-Name-List" representatives increasing the count's accuracy compared to past years, the in-person deployment method and advanced mapping by city and nonprofit partners allowed for a more comprehensive reach across the county, ensuring a likely more accurate portrayal of the ongoing crisis.

The full implications of these preliminary Point-in-Time numbers will become clearer with summer's detailed report. As Sonoma County gears up to launch a $2.6 million homelessness prevention program, the hope is to address the root causes that lead to homelessness and prevent new instances before they begin. Yet, as this year's numbers indicate, the path toward resolving this complex issue remains fraught with challenges, the community and policymakers must navigate together.